Asylum seekers in Hong Kong are at the heart of a heated debate in the city state, ahead of World Refugee Day. Yiming Woo reports.
Mohammad Kazi, his wife, and two daughters fled to Hong Kong two months ago. He's a former member of Bangladesh's opposition party and says he feared for his life. Like many who escaped from Asia and Africa, Kazi came to Hong Kong because it's a safe haven for asylum seekers. But he's also banned from working here. (SOUNDBITE)(English) BANGLADESHI ASYLUM SEEKER, MOHAMMAD KAZI, 40, SAYING: "I know I can't work in Hong Kong in any business, any job. But I came to Hong Kong only to save my life and my family, because they are my kids and my wife. I'm not working in Hong Kong, I'm just saving my life." His family survives on a government handout of 400 U.S. dollars a month, in one of the world's most expensive cities. However, some politicians, like Liberal Party's Dominic Lee, says generous government subsidies are encouraging bogus claimants. (SOUNDBITE)(English) LIBERAL PARTY CANDIDATE, DOMINIC LEE, SAYING: "This provides a huge incentive for these fake refugees to come to Hong Kong, to take advantage of our subsidisation while at the same time being employed in illicit working." He and other opponents call for tighter restrictions, blaming refugees for the crime rate and for straining resources. Human rights activists disagree and say that some politicians are using the issue to get votes for the upcoming election. Hong Kong approves a small fraction of asylum seekers and many of them have to wait years. Even if they're successful, their children face an uncertain future as they can't work and have no documents to leave. Asylum seekers and refugees will march on June 20th to mark World Refugee Day.